Friday, September 13, 2013

CQC: The Content Quality Cycle & How Your Small Business Needs to See It

By Vin Ferrer / Social Media Strategist, NJ Marketing Agency, Graphic D-Signs, Inc.

"Content is king" is the moniker most social media experts propel nowadays. High quality (original, timely, & compelling) content is what's going to get your business the Likes, Followers, Pins and everything in between needed to make it an online powerhouse. This, in turn, will lead to new leads, clientele, and the next level of future success.

So what does that look like for small business?

It may seem like your spinning your wheels at the beginning of launching a social media strategy. Try as they might, most small business owners can't afford to spend time reviewing the latest update or piecing together the need-to-knows from an analytic report. Thankfully, we're here to break down an easy framework for how your content growth should reflect your business growth (with the goal being vice versa). We like to call it the CQC, or "Content Quality Cycle."

The CQC is an organic process, a cyclical flow of content to your online visitors. It's five easy steps that repeat each time your business matriculates into the next level of advanced service or product offerings. It's an easy way to begin to take charge of your social media output and start competing with the big dogs. Here's how:

1. Start with What You Have

The best content is fundamentally original: your company's own mission, ideas, products, services. Ideally, it will change the world. Realistically, it's an 87' Chevy sitting in the garage waiting for someone to show it some love. Basically it's the bare bones of what your business is all about. This is where you must be upfront about your core brand identity and what you bring to the table for consumers.

For example, McDonald's is a fast food restaurant with a variety of food and drink options, at locations worldwide. Sure, they aim to create an experience around it, but at the end of the day, they serve fast food.

2. Optimize for the Appropriate Channels

Here's where you need to put on your marketing cap and get in touch with your brand's voice. Is it young and cutting-edge or seasoned, witty and resourceful? Are you already an authority, or a promising hopeful? You'll need to answer this and speak to your customers in the same voice across different channels. With this voice in place, start refining your content into bite-sized pieces for the web. Blog postings, whitepapers, Top 10 lists--these are the basics to get you started on crafting something people want to read, hear or see.

Once you've got it created, it's time to broadcast it through the correct stream. Want to display a series of images? Pinterest works excellently, and a Facebook album could too. Must it be mobile? Instagram or even Vine might be your best bet. Is time of the utmost importance? Dish it out via Twitter.

Before going channel crazy and signing up for every social media site under the sun, relax and think about your end game. Who is your ideal consumer (demographics/psychoanalytic/etc)? The better picture you can paint of him/her/them, the better you can refine your content.

3. Start Delivering in a Routine Fashion

Throwback Thursday. Superbowl Sunday. The Fourth of July. All these events guarantee essentially the same thing: a special occasion and a point in time when it will occur.

You need to do the same with your content marketing strategy. Stop thinking about the best time to post and start thinking about an overall content creation protocol that fits your busy schedule. Write some posts over the weekend, snap a few candid shots Monday and Tuesday, and spend an hour or so surveying the other online thought leaders in your industry. Pretty soon you will start to see that you have enough content to maintain a substantial online presence.

Make it easy on your online community and post in a routine manner. Keep it truthful, high quality, and on topic for the best results. Look to your audience for feedback and new angles for future content. It will take some time, probably a few months at least, but you will start to see a steady increase if you stick to your guns and keep consistency.

4. Shift from Presence to Thought Leader

After several months of establishment, it's time to up the ante. Make a move towards becoming an expert in your field by way of content. Further refine your content output and cut out what's not working. Spend some extra time and see what's working for your competition. Then see if you can put your own spin on it, and really make it pop.

Did your main competitor write a blog post on back-to-school shopping tips that got a significant amount of shares? Strip that idea down, add in your own images and thoughts, change the angle, and publish a better post on the best back-to-school shopping guide you haven't seen yet. Go above whenever you can to differentiate your expertise or value proposition.

Do your homework, think outside the box, and back up opinions and inclinations with resources (links to articles, clips from videos, etc.) Remember, in order to establish dominance you must first maintain relevance.

5. Monitor Results

If you have been pushing down on the content marketing pedal for several months and have been getting some solid engagement and feedback, the success will start to show. You'll begin to see leads referencing conversations that started on social media or that point to a particularly insightful post they read. A continual output of high quality content will have created a steady generation of effective WOM (Word of Mouth) buzz - the ultimate goal of any online campaign.

Consumers turn to their social spheres for credited insight and opinion on the products and services they engage with. A testament to a successful social media campaign will be the offline conversations it generates amongst your target market segment. There are tracking tools that exist which can pick up on some instances of these conversations, but the truly effective conversions by conversation occur in the physical realm.

As your next level clients begin to roll in and you continue to maintain your output, there will naturally be a need to upgrade your efforts. The key here will be a continued emphasis on listening. Engaging with your customers appropriately will help you keep incoming business going.

Of course, it always helps to employ a social media management service to maximize this outlet's potential.